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Pioneers Defense Stifles St. Cloud State to Win Frozen Faceoff

2017 NCAA Div I Men's Ice Hockey Championships Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

ST. PAUL – All season long, #1 St. Cloud State was overwhelming teams with a strong scoring attack, great defense and solid goaltending. It’s a big reason they’ll be the top seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

However, there was one team that made life tough consistently for them this season, and that was #4 Denver. The Pioneers, which went 3-1-1 against the Huskies this season, are on a mission to bring home a second consecutive national championship, and they reminded the Huskies how tough winning a title can really be in a final pre-NCAA tournament tune-up.

Denver’s defense was once again up to the challenge against St. Cloud State’s powerful offense, and the Pioneers beat the Huskies 4-1 on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center to win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff title.

DU got another outstanding performance from goaltender Tanner Jaillet (28 saves), but a lot of credit is due to his teammates in front of him. They blocked 18 SCSU shots and prevented the Huskies from establishing a consistent forecheck.

“I can’t give our guys enough credit,” Jaillet said. “I get a lot of recognition, but there’s no way I get any of these accolades without the guys in front of me. They make my job easy.”

The game didn’t affect either team’s NCAA seeding, but for Denver, it makes up for the only tournament title they didn’t win last season-and it makes up for St. Cloud beating them three weeks ago to win the Penrose Cup.

“It was a big goal of our team starting at the beginning of the year,” DU forward Logan O’Connor said. “Obviously we wanted the Penrose, and after losing that to St. Cloud, we wanted a little bit of redemption.”

Ryan Poehling scored late for SCSU to spoil a shutout bid for Jaillet, but the Huskies were unable to muster anything else.

“Well-played game. Jaillet was outstanding,” Huskies head coach Bob Motzko said. “They defended very well. Tip your hat to Denver.”

The teams were evenly matched right of the gate, but it was Denver that came out of the first period with the lead. Kohen Olischefski opened the scoring when he somehow got the puck past SCSU goaltender David Hrenak in a big scrum in front of the net. The Pioneers turned momentum even more in their favor with just 5.3 seconds left in the opening frame when a Logan O’Connor shot came right off the pad of Hrenak to a waiting Jake Durflinger on the doorstep.

“That was a huge lift. That Durflinger goal was huge,” Denver head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I thought we did take over the last 10 minutes of the first, and when you’re able to push the lead to two, it’s very deflating to the other team.”

SCSU defenseman Jimmy Schuldt agreed with that statement.

“Momentum’s huge in hockey,” he said.

St. Cloud never seemed to recover after that goal, and they quickly fell behind by three early in the second as Ryan Barrow scored on a soft backhand. By then, Motzko had seen enough and pulled Hrenak in favor of Jeff Smith. Motzko explained afterward that he made the change to try and spark some momentum in the Huskies’ favor.

“At that point, Smitty’s been good for us, let’s get him in there,” Motzko said.

Smith made 13 saves in relief while Hrenak finished with 10.

Whenever the Huskies seemed ready to answer, the Pioneers tightened up defensively. Ryan Poehling finally got SCSU on the board with just over four minutes left, but Dylan Gambrell responded 1:12 later to seal it.

St. Cloud State is locked into the #1 overall seed, and Denver will be the #5 overall seed. Full NCAA Tournament brackets will be revealed on Sunday at 11:00 CT.

Scoring summary:

First period:

DU goal at 4:24: Kohen Olischefski (6). Assisted by Ryan Barrow (5) and Ian Mitchell (24).

DU goal at 19:54: Jake Durflinger (5). Assisted by Logan O’Connor (14).

Second period:

DU goal at 2:06: Ryan Barrow (4). Assisted by Liam Finlay (9) and Olischefski (4).

Third period:

SCSU goal at 15:54: Ryan Poehling (14). Assisted by Kevin Fitzgerald (14).

DU goal at 17:06: Dylan Gambrell (13). Unassisted.

Power plays: DU 0-4, SCSU 0-3.

Shots on goal: DU 27, SCSU 29.

Frozen Faceoff Third Place Game: #14 North Dakota defeats #8 Minnesota-Duluth 4-1

ST. PAUL – Austin Poganski and Ludvig Hoff each had a goal and an assist to help #14 North Dakota beat #8 Minnesota-Duluth 4-1 for third place in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. UND snapped an eight-game losing streak to UMD with the victory, but didn’t get the outside help they needed and therefore will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years.

In the 15-year streak in which they made the NCAA Tournament, North Dakota advanced to the Frozen Four eight times, went to the national championship twice and won it once.

Mikey Anderson prevented the shutout with a late shorthanded goal, but untimely penalties and a poor offensive showing did UMD in for the second straight night. However, Duluth still qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 4th consecutive year thanks to getting the outside help they needed.

Cam Johnson of the Fighting Hawks and Hunter Shepard of the Bulldogs each had 27 saves.

Scoring summary:

First period:

UND goal at 7:22: Austin Poganski (11). Assisted by Nick Jones (15).

Second period:

UND goal at 7:09: Joel Janatuinen (6). Assisted by Colton Poolman (22).

Third period:

UND power-play goal at 15:51: Shane Gersich (13). Assisted by Ludvig Hoff (6) and Poganski (9).

UMD shorthanded goal at 16:37: Mikey Anderson (5). Assisted by Dylan Samberg (10) and Billy Exell (6).

UND power-play goal at 19:04: Hoff (3). Assisted by Christian Wolanin (23) and Jordan Kawaguchi (14).

Power plays: UND 2-5, UMD 0-3.

Shots on goal: UND 31, UMD 28.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff All-Tournament Team:

Forwards: Henrik Borgstrom and Logan O’Connor of Denver, Nick Poehling of St. Cloud State

Defensemen: Ian Mitchell of Denver, Jack Ahcan of St. Cloud State

Goaltender: Tanner Jaillet of Denver

Most Outstanding Player: Tanner Jaillet of Denver